Archive for the ‘Cosmetics’ Category

Pomhyanggi hand lotion

Monday, March 12th, 2012

A friend of mine visited the DPRK and returned with a bottle of hand moisturizing lotion (pictured above). In English it is called “Kaesong Koryo Insam Moisture Milk Cream”. The Korean name is “개성고려인삼 물크림”, and it is manufactured by a company called Pomhyanggi (봄향기). According to Kwang On Yoo, the name translates to mean “Spring Fragrance”.

Popmhyanggi is a product line of the Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory (satellite image here). Sales are promoted through a Joint Venture company–the partner(s) are unknown at this time–called the Korea Pomhyanggi Joint Venture Company. The JV apparently operates out of an exhibition hall in Moranbong-guyok, Pyongyang, which was opened in 2007. Here is a link to an additional KCNA story on the cosmetics line.

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ROK goods saturate DPRK

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

According to the Hankyorey:

A report on major North Korean indicators released by Statistics Korea on Wednesday revealed that South Korean products are becoming increasingly popular in North Korea, and that there are hardly any North Korean urban youth who do not watch South Korean TV dramas or movies.

In the report, Statistics Korea said it is becoming a fad for young people in major North Korean cities like Pyongyang and along the border with China to watch South Korean television dramas and films using MP3 players or laptop computers. Statistics Korea said MP3 players with 1G of memory cost 60,000 North Korean Won (estimated $419), while a used laptop costs about 2 million North Korean Won. A memory chip with two or three movies costs 10,000 North Korean Won if it is an original, and 5,000 North Korean Won if its a copy.

The report also said many South Korean products are in circulation in North Korea, including blenders, portable heaters, gas ranges, butane cans, lunch trays, gas heaters, rice cookers, dishrags and gloves. According to the report, South Korean shampoo and conditioner is popular with the wives of high-ranking North Korean officials in Pyongyang. Some 470g bottles of South Korean shampoo and rinse go for 40-50 yuan (8,000-10,000 South Korean Won) in Pyongyang. The report said the popularity of South Korean products was also reflected in other goods. South Korean necklaces are sold for about $500 and earrings for about $70-80, while South Korean products like perfume, deodorant, car air fresheners, refrigerator deodorizer and bathroom air fresheners are also selling well.

South Korea’s nominal GNI in 2009 was $837.2 billion, 37.4 times that of North Korea’s $22.4 billion. North Korea’s economic power, all told, is no more than the level of the South Korean city of Gwangju (about 22 trillion Won). South Korea’s per capita income of $18,175 was 17.9 times that of North Korea’s $960. South Korea also conducted $686.6 billion in total trade, 201.9 times that of North Korea, which conducted only $3.4 billion. The only sectors in which North Korea topped South Korea were production of iron ore and coal and length of railroads. North Korea’s iron ore production was 4.955 million tons, ten times that of South Korea (455,000 tons), and its coal production was 25.5 million tons, 10 times that of South Korea (2.519 million tons). North Korea also had 5,242km of railroads, 1.4 times that of South Korea’s 3,378km. North Korea is also believed to have 7 quadrillion Won in underground mineral wealth.

I have been unable to locate the original on the Statistics Korea page.  If any readers can find it, please let me know.

Read the full story here:
In limited N.Korean market, furor for S.Korean products
Hankyoreh
Hwangbo Yon
1/6/2011

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Paul White published September 2010 DPRK Business Monthly

Monday, September 27th, 2010

You can download the PDF here.

Topics discussed include:
Kim Jong Il Praises China’s Economic Advance
“NK Keen on Investment in Mining”
DPRK Pavilion Day Marked at Shanghai Expo
NGO Initiatives in DPRK: Triangle Génération Humanitaire (France)
Choson Exchangers Train NK in Finance, Economics, Law
ROK Civic Bodies Seek to Help NK Flood Victims
Seoul’s NK Trade Ban Hits ROK Firms Hard
Can North Korea embrace Chinese-style reforms?
Pyongyang Night Life Buzzing
Hamhung Makes Economic Strides
Pomhyanggi Cosmetics Enjoy Popularity
P’yang Hosts International Film Festival
New Numerical-control Machine Tool
Climate Map to Aid Agriculture
New Rice Strain Suitable for Double Cropping
Online Medical Service Working Well
NK’s New Money-Making Venture: Video Games
Day-care Center Opens for Kaesong Complex Children
Seoul to Allow More of its Citizens to Work at Kaesong

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2008 Top Items in the Jangmadang

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Daily NK
Park In Ho
1/1/2009

The marketplace has become an extremely important ground in North Korean people’s lives. 70 percent of North Korean households in the city live off trade, handicrafts and transportation businesses related to trade. If the jangmadang works well, people’s living situation is good, otherwise it is not. In the situation where the food distribution system has broken down, the whole economic existence of the populace is bound up in jangmadang trade.

Trade is bound to generate successful merchants but also failures, due to a lack of know-how or confiscation of products by the People’s Safety Agency (PSA), or simply because a competition system operates. These failures in the jangmadang do not have any second opportunity to rise again so they frequently choose extreme acts like defection, criminality or suicide. Failure is serious.

However, the revitalization of markets has caused great changes in North Korean people’s values. The individual-centered mentality among the people is expanding and the belief that money is the best tool is also spreading. Due to such effects, the North Korean communist authorities in 2008 made the regulation to prohibit women younger than 40 years old from doing business, but of course the people use all necessary means to maintain their survival.

Daily NK investigated the 2008 top ten items in the jangmadang, so as to observe developments in North Korean society.

1. Rice in artificial meat, the first instance of domestic handicraft

Since 2000, the most ubiquitous street food has been “rice in artificial meat,” which is made from fried tofu with seasoned rice filling. This food is found everywhere on North Korean streets. One can find women who sell this snack in alleys, at bus stops and around stations. It costs 100 to 150 North Korean Won.

Meanwhile, the most popular street food is fried long-twisted bread. Individuals make the fried bread at home and sell it on the street. The length of the fried bread is around 20 centimeters and it sells for 100 won.

In around 2005 corn noodles were popular on the streets, but now street-stands for noodles have largely disappeared due to the existence of a permanent store controlled by the state.

These days, if one can afford to eat corn noodles, at approximately 1,000 won for a meal, one can safely say that one is living comfortably.

2. Car battery lights North Korea

The reason why North Korean people like car batteries is that the authorities provide a reliable electricity supply during the daytime, when consumption is less than at night, but at night they don not offer it. The authorities shut down the circuit from around 8 PM to 9PM, and from 12 AM to 2 AM: when the people watch television the most.

As a result, the people charge their car batteries during daytime and use it at night. A 12V battery can run a television and 30-watt light bulb. If they utilize a converter, they can use a color television, which needs more electricity.

Ownership of batteries is a standard of wealth. Officials use electricity from batteries in each room. They usually draw thick curtains in their rooms, to prevent light shining through that might draw attention to their status.

3. The strong wind of South Korean brand’ rice-cooker, Cuckoo

A South Korean brand pressure rice-cooker called Cuckoo appeared as a new icon for evaluating financial power among North Korean elites.

It has spread from the three Chinese northeast provinces into North Korea. In North Korea, Chinese rice and third country aid rice, dry compared to Korean sticky rice, generally circulates, but if the lucky few use this rice-cooker, they can taste sticky rice the way Korean people like it.

There are Cuckoo rice-cookers from South Korean factories that arrive through Korean-Chinese merchants, and surely other Cuckoo products from Chinese factories. These two kinds of rice-cookers, despite having the same brand name, sell for different prices.

The Chinese-made Cuckoo sells for 400,000-700,000 North Korean Won (approximately USD114-200), while the South Korean variety costs 800,000-1,200,000 (approximately USD229-343). A Cuckoo rice-cooker tallies with the price of a house in rural areas of North Korea. According to inside sources, they are selling like wildfire.

4. An electric shaver only for trips

The electric shaver is another symbol of wealth.

It is not that they use electric shavers normally, because one cannot provide durability. At home, North Korean men generally use disposable shavers with two blades made in China or a conventional razor. However, when they take a business trip or have to take part in remote activities, they bring the electric shaver.

There are North Korean-made shavers but most are imported from China. Among Chinese products, you can see “Motorola” products and fake-South Korean products with fake labels in Korean. A Chinese-made electric shaver is around 20,000-40,000 North Korean Won.

5. Chosun men’s fancy shoes

Dress shoes are one of the most important items for Chosun men when they have to participate in diverse political events, loyalty vows or greeting events at Kim Il Sung statues on holidays. Right after the famine in the late 1990s, it was considered a symbol of the wealth, but now general workers, farmers and students are wearing dress shoes.

The shiny enameled leather shoes with a hard heel cannot be produced in North Korea because of a lack of leather. The North Korean authorities provide the National Security Agency (NSA) and officers of the People’s Army with dress shoes, which are durable but too hard and uncomfortable.

Shoes for general citizens and students are mostly made in China and some are produced in joint enterprises in Rajin-Sunbong. The price of shoes ranges from 30,000 to 100,000 Won depending upon the quality.

6. Cosmetics prosper despite the economic crisis

Cosmetics and accessories for women are getting more varied. Lately, false eyelashes have appeared in the jangmadang in major cities. Chinese cosmetics are mainly sold, alongside fake South Korean brands. In Pyongyang, Nampo, Wonsan and Shinuiju Chinese and even European cosmetics are on sale.

“Spring Fragrance,” a North Korean luxury cosmetics brand, is famous for being Kim Jong Il’s gift that he presents to women soldiers or artists when he visits military units or cultural performances. It costs more than 200,000 North Korean won.

Lotions for women, made in China, are approximately 2,000-4,000 won, foundation cream is 3,000-5,000 won, and lipstick is from 500 won to 2,000 won. Hand cream is 3,000-5,000 won.

7. Hana Electronics recorder, the biggest state-monopoly production

“Hana Electronics” was originally set up to produce CDs and DVDs of North Korean gymnastic performances or other artistic performances, so as to export them foreign countries. The company has been producing DVD players since 2005.

Due to the state monopoly, the DVD player of the Hana Electronics dominates the market. North Korean people call a VCR and a DVD player a “recorder.” Since around 2005, after the booming interest in South Korean movies and dramas, the players have been selling very well.

At the beginning, North Korean visitors to China brought the DVD or CD players into North Korea, but as they got popular among the people, Chinese-made players were imported from China and since 2006 they have been really popular in every jangmadang.

Accordingly, since 2006, the authorities have started blocking the importation of the Chinese player and are selling the Hana Electronics players, which sell for around a 20 or 30 percent higher price than Chinese players in state-run stores. Now, they can be sold in the jangmadang by private merchants and comparatively free from inspection by the PSA. The prices are 130,000-150,000 won.

8. Bicycles are basic, the motorcycle era is here now

In major cities, numbers of motorcycles are increasing. Especially in border regions where smuggling with China is easier than in other cities, motorcycles are common.

The motorcycles are ordinarily used for mid or long distance business. Most motorcycles are made in China and some are Japanese second-handed products, which sell for 1.5-2.5 million won. 125cc new products are over 5 million won. The cheapest second-handed motorcycle is 500,000 won.

9. Vinyl floor covering for the middle class and vinyl for the poor

Demand for vinyl floor coverings and vinyl has been increasing since the late 1990s, when residential conditions improved. In the late-1990s people had to use sacks of cement or Rodong Shinmun (newspaper) as a floor covering, but now they are using vinyl floor coverings.

Uses for vinyl are unimaginably diverse: from a basic protection against wind and cold to when people take a shower at home in the vinyl tunnel hung on the ceiling of the bathroom.

Depending on the thickness and width, there are four or five kinds of vinyl in the jangmadang for from 150 to 500 won. Vinyl floor covering is a Chinese product selling for from 3,000 to 10,000 won.

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North Korea’s continuing social change

Friday, June 20th, 2008

The Daily NK posted a fascinating interview with a local North Korean merchant.  He provides interesting anecdotes of everyday life:

Tongil Market (Featured in A State of Mind):

Nowadays, the way to survive is selling in the jangmadang (market). With the exception of the residents of the Joong-district and its vicinity, who are often mobilized to national events, seven out of 10 households do business in the jangmadang. In the Pyongyang Tongil (unification) Market alone, the number of people doing business is between 5,000~6,000 people. The size of a street-stand is approximately 50cm by 50cm large. There are also about 2,000 people selling outside of the market.”

“There are people also selling in the alleyways. The Tongil Market usually consists of people from the Tongil Street, so merchants from the other regions cannot do business there. In the Tongil Market alone, there are around 8,000 people [doing business]. Because the Market is so large, the cadres from the other regions frequently come to buy goods.”

Even in North Korea, capital enhances worker productivity: 

Mr. A said that in the markets, the sale of industrial goods (all kinds of products such as clothing brought from China) and cosmetics are supposed to be lucrative. The traders usually bring in about 5,000 won per day and 15,000 won per month. Such an amount of money can buy about 2kg of rice per day. The people who make a lot of money are the marine product merchants. They make around 7,000~8,000 won per day. Marine products are often purchased by officials who have money and rice.

The people in the lowest class do not have the capital to do business, so a majority of them sell noodles or food. They make about 1,500 won per day, which can purchase about a kilogram of corn. People who sell food sell rice, sidedishes, and snacks on site. To them, selling is a battle to survive.

Coping mechanisms:

Mr. A relayed that not-so-affluent households raise several domestic cattle, collect medicinal herbs or brew liquor to sell. The remnants of the liquor are used as livestock feed. Selling two bottles of liquor made of corn as raw material generates about 500 won in profit. However, the authorities have strictly been regulating brewing liquor in homes, resulting in difficult situations. If exposed for making liquor, both the person-in-charge and the People’s Party Unit chairman are banished to the countryside.

Beekeeping is seasonally supposed to be lucrative. In May when the acacia flowers start to bloom, the number of people who collect honey in the mountains increases. In the surrounding areas of Pyongyang, there are at least trees on the mountains, so beekeeping has been feasible. One person can collect about 100kg of honey per month by keeping around 15 beehives. The honey is usually consumed by people who want to use it in medicine or by officials.

Work overseas:

“The utmost goal of workers in Pyongyang is to go to another country to earn money. Recently, they have even gone to the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Once they leave, they do not return for three years. They can go back or stay in Pyongyang. Workers who have gone to Russia or to Congo for farming come back with 10,000~20,000 dollars in three years.”

“With that money, they can buy a house and prepare a significant amount of capital for business. Those who have gone abroad not only do the work ordered by organizations, but also engage in private farming, do business and save as much money as they can. There have been a quite a few people around me who have gone abroad recently to make money this way. Out of 100 male workers, there is at least one or two. In order to go overseas, one has to pay 300~400 dollars in bribes.”

Read the full article here:
Doing Business Is a Battle
Daily NK 
Jung Kwon Ho
6/18/2008

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North Korea’s Market Regulations Extreme, Even Inspect Women’s Undergarments

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

Daily NK
Kwon Jeong Hyun
12/3/2007

The North Korean authorities have toughened their regulation of the market.

An inside North Korean source relayed that “After releasing the policy of market regulations, the inspections of the railway police have become more extreme. They carelessly go through the citizens’ bags or even search women’s undergarments.”

The North Korean authorities have strengthened market regulations, such as prohibiting goods that can be sold in the market or fixing prices.

Also, they have adjusted the minimum age of women who can sell in the jangmadang (markets) to 45 from 35 years. If women who are under 45 sell in the market or sell prohibited goods, the safety agents in charge or the managers of the jangmadang confiscate the products by force or charge fines.

The source commented, “The security agents search their bodies because merchants hide cosmetics, medicine, or precious metals in thick clothing. After the decree from the authorities, the safety agents have come forward for aggressive regulations.”

The regulation of the market has spread to long-distance merchants who use rails. If young women are carrying a lot of possessions in trains, the safety agents steal the goods by force and search their bags without discretion.

Pyongyang has also made public announcements to prohibit women under 49 from trading at the market starting December 1st. Currently, women under 39 are prohibited. Further, they are only allowed to sell at permitted locations in the market.

North Korean rail safety agents ride in every car of North Korea’s rails. The basic duties of rail safety agents consist of checking travel certificate and citizen cards and regulating suspicious passengers, including crimes of theft. On top of this, their authority to inspect women who are engaging in long-distance trade has increased.

The rail safety agents force passengers who carry large loads suspected of being goods for sale to come to the inspection car. The safety agents search the luggage and make threats, such as reporting them. Recently, after the prohibition of sales by women under 45, if the owner of the luggage is a woman under 45, she been threatened to be reported. Long-distance merchants can only claim their goods if they give bribes such as cigarettes or cash to the rail security officer.

The source stated, “After the market regulation, the amount of bribes to the rail safety agent has risen. Due to this decree, the safety agents become well-off.”

Also, with the increase in new regulation authority by the rail safety agents, the phenomenon of sexually harassing young women who engage in long-distance trade or requesting wrongful sexual relations has been taking place.

The agents take the women to regulation cars by saying, “We have to investigate whether or not you are engaging in gold trade,” and force them to remove their undergarments under the pretext of investigations and engage in illicit conduct. If the women protest, their luggage is confiscated or their citizen cards and travel certificates are handed over to the discretion of the local safety agency office at the train station and the woman is forcibly removed from the train.”

The source said, “In North Korea, there are no laws regarding human rights and the consciousness of average civilians regarding human rights is very low, so recent occurrences which have been frequent can give rise to societal issues.” He also noted, “As a result of the recent market regulation decree, the tyrannies of safety agents and party leaders have become worse and the situation of indiscriminate human rights violations has become even more conspicuous.”

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No More Old-fashioned Chinese Stuff. We like South Korean Culture

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Daily NK
Moon Sung Hwee
11/7/2007

A source inside North Korea reported on November 5th that the North Korean Ministry of Education lately directed every school to stress the importance of the Korean language education and to encourage the use of the mother tongue.

In a phone interview with DailyNK, the source said, “At workplace, there are those who read out to the workers a handbook titled ‘Let’s maintain our superior morals and actively promote the use of our mother tongue!’”

In the March 2007 edition of “Learning Culture & Language,” Jong Soon Ki, the most well-known linguist in North Korea and a professor at the Institute of Linguistics of Social Science Center, urged the public to stop admiring English and Chinese language, saying, “The difference of our mother tongue between North and South Korea has been getting larger since the division of Korean.”

The source said that the North Korean authorities started to place high importance on the native tongue in an attempt to stop the surge in the use of the Chinese and foreign languages which have been spread to the country through the circulation of South Korean soap operas since 2000.

After the food crisis in the mid-1990s, the number of defectors, border traders, and Chinese businessmen investing in North Korea have increased, which helped the Chinese culture spread into the country. Many young North Korean began to display interest in Chinese movies, Chinese products and the Chinese language. It became popular among them to read out the brand names of Chinese products in Chinese.

In North Korea, people use the Chinese words “yaoyunji (搖運機)” or “yaoyun (搖運)” for a remote control. They do not use its Korean name “wonkyuk-jojonggi,” translated and adopted by the North Korean authorities.

As for a cell phone, people use its Chinese name “Dakeda (大可大)” or “Souji (手機)” rather than its North Korean name “Sonjeonhwa (literally meaning a handphone).” Blue jeans are called “Niuzaiku,” in the border areas, a refrigerator is called its Chinese name “Bingxiang (冰箱)” and VCD “Woicidie.” Indeed, many products or medical supplies are called their Chinese names such as “Kouhong” for a lipstick.

The use of foreign languages has become more prevalent across the country especially since 2003 when the frenzy over Chinese culture was replaced by its South Korean counterpart. It is particularly noticeable that North Korean people no longer call South Korea “South Chosun” as they used to but call it “Hankuk (meaning the Republic of Korea).” In these days, the young people in Pyongyang look down on those who still use the old name, “South Chosun.”

The source said, “South Korean culture is taking over the Chinese one, and the demand for the South Korean films and products is increasing. People learn new words from South Korean soap operas and these words are becoming popular.”
The source added, “I guess this is because South Korea is better off than China, and people have a sense of homogeneity towards South Korean people.”

“Nowadays, when people go to restaurants, they do not use the words “siksa annae” or “siksa pyo,” a Korean name for a menu. Instead, many people just call it “menu” as it is pronounced in English and widely called so in South Korea,” said the source.

The source continued, “We can see how rapidly the South Korean culture has spread into the country by the fact that many people no longer use the Chinese name for a cell phone, Shouji (手機) and instead use the name ‘Hyudaephone’ as it is called in South Korea.” The source said, “At Jangmadang (markets), people casually say the names of South Korean products as they are such as “Cuckoo (rice cooker)” or “Color TV.”

When asked about the popular words adopted from South Korean culture, he listed following words: “diet,” “wellbeing,” “music video,” “sausage,” “single,” “wife,” “dress,” “pop song,” and “fast food.” (See that all of them are English words. In South Korea, people use many English words like the one listed here in everyday life)

32-year old Kim Kyung Wuk (pseudonym), who defected from Kyungsung county of North Hamkyung Province and recently came to South, also confirmed this phenomenon.

Kim said, “In the past when people feel distressed, they expressed their feeling using the word, ‘uljukhada’. But now many young people use the words ‘jajeong’ or ‘stress’ as South Korean people do.” Kim added, “The North Korean people did not know the word ‘stress’ when they first heard it from South Korean movies they watched only three years ago. But now even the old people know the new word.”

Many defectors say that many new words adopted from South Korean TV dramas are being spread into the country especially among the young people such as “miss-Korea (a beautiful woman),” “show (fake),” “ssonda (I will treat you),” “hwakeun (passionate),” “single” and “wife.”

Kim said, “Those who watch South Korean dramas and listen to its music take a great interest in everyday language of the South, and try to adopt it as long as they could escape the state’s regulation.”

Defectors said that the current phenomenon illustrates that North Korean people admire the South Korea and greatly hope for reforms and open-door policy.

Lee Chul Min, the operating manager at the Association of the North Korean defectors said, “For those who live in a closed society, exposure to foreign cultures can be a really fresh experience. It is natural of them to admire more advanced societies and cultures.” Lee added, “The current frenzy over South Korean culture will help bring a change into North Korea and overcome the differences between two Koreas.”

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A Footage of North Korean Jangmadang Captured by Asahi TV

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

Daily NK
Yang Jung A
10/14/2007

The Asahi TV of Japan broadcasted in the evening of October 9th recent video footage of the market which is thriving across the North Korea. The released footage was filmed by an underground journalist, Lee Jun who operates in North Korea.

The footage captures the scenes of local people’s making transactions at the markets in Pyongyang, Chongjin, and Hamheung

Filmed last August, the scene from the Sungyo market in Pyongyang with its bustling crowd was distinguishable from the markets in the other parts of the country. Many different kinds of goods were available at the market.

Women’s dresses being sold at the market were trimmed with lace, and had floral design in splendid color. There were also clothed mannequins with heart-shaped price tags. If customers wanted to try on clothes, they could do so on the scene.

Storekeepers at grocery stores were wearing an apron, trying to keep their store clean and tidy.

Some female peddlers were engaging themselves in business at places other than the markets permitted by the state such as bus stations where there were many people. Among the peddlers were those wearing the badge of Kim Il Sung. Around parks or high-class apartments, there appeared small-scale markets where people could buy fruit such as apples or watermelons or some snack like doughnuts.

A 35-year old defector, Han Young Ju who had lived in Pyongyang until 2003 said, “The ordinary people frequently visit the Sungyo market. Judging from the video footage, I could see that the market became more crowded as the number of people engaged in business without permission has increased.”

“Back in 2003, the market was very clean because there were managers who kept the place in order and regularly directed cleanup activity. But, now, the place seems to be out of control because too many people are gathering around the market to do business,” the defector said, adding, “As I look at the types of clothes or shoes these people are wearing, I think the living conditions are worse off than before.”

Jiro Ishimaru, the chief editor of Asia Press International, said in his interview with Asahi TV, “We can see that the market economy is developing in Pyongyang.” The chief editor proceeded, “Nowadays, the North Korean people engage themselves in economical activities in order to improve their standard of living.”

The chief editor added, “For the past ten years, the market economy has been spreading into North Korea. And its power has been reshaping the country to the point that the state authorities cannot stop it.”

A market in Chongjin of North Hamkyung province did not look as vigorous as did the Sungyu market in Pyongyang. People in the market in Chongjin are wearing shabby cloth if compared to their counterparts in Pyongyang. Some women engaged in business at the market were notable with their baseball caps with visor.

There were many Kotjebi (street children) roaming around the markets in the Hamheung areas.

The footage featured a scene where the cameraman spoke with a homeless family. They were picking up usable stuff in a dumpster adjacent to the market. Lately, the number of families who were driven out of their homes into the street because of debt has been rising in the county.

The footage also showed a Kotjebi singing and begging for money, and an old man lying down in front of the railroad station but later being pulled along by a superintendent. Jiro Ishimaru explained about the rising of homeless families, saying, “It seems that we are observing ‘bankruptcy,’ one of many phenomena under capitalism occurring in North Korea.”

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North Korea on Google Earth

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

Version 5: Download it here (on Google Earth) 

This map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, manufacturing facilities, railroad, energy infrastructure, politics, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, and national parks. It is continually expanding and undergoing revisions. This is the fifth version.

Additions to the latest version of “North Korea Uncovered” include updates to new Google Earth overlays of Sinchon, UNESCO sites, Railroads, canals, and the DMZ, in addition to Kim Jong Suk college of eduation (Hyesan), a huge expansion of the electricity grid (with a little help from Martyn Williams) plus a few more parks, antiaircraft sites, dams, mines, canals, etc.

Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for the authenticity of many locations since I have not seen or been to them, but great efforts have been made to check for authenticity. These efforts include pouring over books, maps, conducting interviews, and keeping up with other peoples’ discoveries. In many cases, I have posted sources, though not for all. This is a thorough compilation of lots of material, but I will leave it up to the reader to make up their own minds as to what they see. I cannot catch everything and I welcome contributions.

I hope this map will increase interest in North Korea. There is still plenty more to learn, and I look forward to receiving your additions to this project.

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Summit Reveals Fashionable Pyongyang

Friday, October 5th, 2007

Korea Times
Kim Tong-hyung
10/5/2007

It will be quite a long time before Pyongyang earns its stripes as a hip and happening city if it ever does. But, judging by the glimpses revealed during the three-day summit, it seems that not all is gray and grim in the North Korean capital.

First lady Kwon Yang-suk and other South Korean officials ran into a room full of headsets Wednesday at Pyongyang’s Grand People’s Study Hall as students managed to keep a straight face scribbling down English conversations played on tape.

“Repeating is the best,” said a North Korean student when asked what is the secret to learning English, providing no relief to his peers in the South who hear the same thing until their eardrums wear out.

Perhaps improving cooperation between the two Koreas will do little to better the foreign language skills of students from either side of the border who grab English books with the same enthusiasm as a kid force-fed vegetables.

However, it seems clear that Pyongyang’s youngsters of today are more concerned about internationalization than they appeared in the first inter-Korean summit seven years ago.

South Korean delegates went on to tour the Kim Chaek University of Technology where they found students, mostly studying English, searching for video files and text stored in computers.

The university’s library has 420 desktop computers, 2 million books and more than 10 million electronics books that can be accessed via a local area network (LAN) connection or from telephone modems at home.

North Korean officials were eager to show their elite students studying English to South Korean authorities, quiet a surprise from a country dominated by the “Juche,” or self-reliance, ideology.

And at least on the educational front, it seems that computers are becoming a part of everyday life for Pyongyang’s younger generation, although they are far behind their tech-savvy southern neighbors who have television on their cell phones.

Not every picture of change in Pyongyang was staged. South Korean correspondents have sent photos of young North Korean women gliding through the streets in clothes that seemed to be ripped from Vogue magazine. Some even had heavy mascara that would qualify them for a Johnny Depp pirate movie.

Bright colors of yellow and pink were easily seen among the women waving their hands to the limousine convoy of South Korean delegates upon their Pyongyang arrival.

Surely, North Korean fusionists have come a long way since their universally pale makeup and grayish attire seen by South Korean reporters during the 2000 summit.

Even North Korean government officials involved in the formal talks looked a little more contemporary than last remembered, with many of them suited up in tailor-cut, three-button suits.

The security officials looked better too. Gone were the bodyguards with big hats, khaki uniforms and oversized gun holsters who flocked around former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung back in the first talks.

Instead, North Korean bodyguards today were dressed in black suits and moved with a hand on their earpieces, making them hardly distinguishable them from their South Korean counterparts.

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